King Arthur Pendragon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Magic-Users in D&D Basic

As I finish reading the Moldvay edition of the D&D basic rules, some things were readily apparent as differing from the Mentzer edition but none so striking as the magic-users spell usage. You see, people complain a lot that in the latter magic-users (henceforth, known as M-U) can only cast a spell per day, on their 1st level, even though they start with two spells in their spellbooks. However, in the Moldvay basic rules, a M-U starts with only ONE spell and can only cast that spell per day. Before I would consider the impact of this in play, I wanted to know the rational behind this. I could, obviously, house rule the whole thing and make it more like the Mentzer edition, but I'm the kind of guy that needs to know why something works the way it works before fiddling with it. I asked about this in the fine Dragonsfoot forums, where people are always ready to lend a hand in all things D&D / AD&D. You can read the actual discussion here.

Even if I couldn't understand why the rule was meant to be that way (perhaps someone can comment on it here), there were a lot of useful answers. Nothing like a fresh perspective to get the creative juices flowing. Of all the answers there, the one I liked best was this (and I will try it during my next session):

"To all the people who keep saying Mentzer D&D is virtually the same as Moldvay D&D, you've just hit upon the biggest difference. Yup, one spell. Read magic is a useful spell because it means magic-users can make use of scrolls. Out of mercy, if a starting magic-user has read magic, I'd let him start with a handful of scrolls of other spells. In Moldvay, you can't transcribe scrolls into your spellbook; they are just one-shot magic items."

This is a great idea! The M-U knows Read Magic as his first spell and carries with him some scrolls provided by the DM, which are already known to the mage (one assumes he used Read Magic to decipher them prior to the game). Now he can go around with a Read Magic and some prepared spells which he can cast as normal spells. Sure, they're scrolls and can only be used once, but I can provide extra scrolls as part of the treasure found in the dungeon. This might be a great deal of fun to the player without causing undue frustration for lack of spells. It's a house rule, nonetheless, but it makes perfect sense in this context. Will it work? I'll have to try it on my next session.
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